If you’ve ever wondered why your face looks gorgeous in real life, and then not-so-great in the selfie you just took, you’re not alone. Because a few scientists apparently also got so fed up with their lack of decent-looking profile pics, they decided to invest time into figuring out exactly what causes some selfies to look like so bad.
According to a research letter published in the JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery journal, the reason your pic looks less than stellar is because of the position of your arm — namely, that your arm would need to be 5 feet long in order to take a selfie that doesn’t distort your facial features.
The study found that selfies taken at just 12 inches away (the average distance between your extended arm and your face) forced a “funhouse mirror” perspective that makes your nose look up to 30 percent wider than it is in real life. Great!
“For years, I’ve heard patients and family members say, ‘Oh, look at my nose, it looks so big,’ when they show me a selfie,” Dr. Boris Paskhover, study co-author and plastic surgeon, said in an interview with Live Science. “I was always telling my patients, ‘That’s not how you really look.’ I knew that selfies distort how your nose looks. And I wanted to prove it.”
Rather than just looking at a bunch of bad selfies and saying, “Yup, definitely looks weird,” Paskhover and his team of scientist buddies at Rutgers Medical School and Stanford University devised a mathematical model that compared the distortive effects different camera angles can have on male and female faces.
The results? A photo taken from 5 feet away, “a standard portrait distance,” resulted in no distortion, but a photo taken from 12 inches resulted in a 30 percent nose increase in men and a 29 percent increase in women.
Luckily, you can combat the distortion by either giving up selfies altogether, or you can invest in a selfie stick, as embarrassing as they may seem. Or, perhaps give the camera to a friend for that “perfect” shot.
For tips on how to get a better picture, watch the related video above.